Now 32, Smith was devastated when she had to give up flying. But, making the best of things, she works in customer service for a cell phone company and has taken up martial arts.
"It's something I've learned to adapt my life to," Smith said. "I'm not going to be able to be as active as I used to be, but I'm always looking for things I can do."
As a pain advocate, she wants to encourage vets and those in the military to seek care when needed, to understand being in pain is not a sign of weakness and to be persistent.
"When you're in that kind of pain, it's a daily hell," Smith said. "You have things you want to do, goals and dreams. Most people want to be able to work, go for walks, enjoy playing with their children. When you are in significant pain, you are robbed of those life experiences. All you can focus on is the pain and how miserable you are," she explained.
"It takes a very strong person even to try to get help," Smith added. "It's that overwhelming."
The American Pain Foundation has more on vets and pain and where to get help.
SOURCES: Michael Clark, Ph.D., chair, VA National Polytrauma Pain Subcommittee and clinical director, Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program, Tampa, Fla.; Darisse Smith, pain advocate, American Pain Foundation; Department of Veterans Affairs study, presented in May at the American Pain Society meeting, Austin, Texas
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